The two state solution is basically a sovereign Palestinian state and a sovereign Israeli state. Two countries that live side by side. And that includes Gaza.
Gaza is in the far south of what is modern day Israel. It borders Egypt, has two land borders with Israel and then its third border, for lack of better word, is the sea on the Mediterranean Sea. The reality is, however, that Israel occupies the West Bank which is where a very large Palestinian population lives. It blockades Gaza and many consider it occupies Gaza as well. Because although its military forces aren’t physically on the ground in Gaza, they surround it completely and control every aspect of life there.
The Palestinians want a state which is divided along the 1964 borders. That’s when Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories began. They’ve accepted that they will not get any more territory than that. But since then, Israel’s settlement population has grown enormously in the occupied West Bank. Well over a half million Israelis now live in what territory that Palestinians hope will one day be part of their state. And the erosion of the presence of Palestinians in many areas of where they want to see their state is why many people view that it will one day become the impossible for that state to ever be born.
The Israelis and the Palestinians have largely agreed to the terms they’ve negotiated many times over the years. But these negotiations, as we know, tend to fall apart. And now I think Israel is moving further and further away from the potential of a two state solution because for most Israelis, the idea of a two state solution is not something they think about. That said, if you poll Israelis, the majority would still say they believe in a two state solution and the Israeli government, including Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said at least publicly that he believes in two states. But the facts on the ground are contrary to all of that.
Israel’s settlement population in the occupied West Bank is expanding dramatically. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli nationals live inside what Palestinians hope to be their state. And this current government which is the most far right government in Israel’s history (which is saying a lot!) is also dominated by pro-settlement groups. Furthermore, when you consider the fact that on the campaign trail that now president-elect Donald Trump has said that he would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, that in a way almost obliterates the idea of a two state solution. The Palestinians have always viewed occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. And if the US, Israel’s most powerful ally, decides to basically change the facts on the ground and move its embassy to Jerusalem and declare united Jerusalem the capital of Israel, it really begs the question: just what will the Palestinians get as part of a two state solution?
Therefore it still feels like there’s the potential for a two state solution because this is what the international community wants. Israel says that it’s what they want but it feels like we are just moving further and further away from it which, I think for Palestinians, is a very depressing reality for them. I lived in Israel and the Palestinian territories for over two and a half years and the situation on the ground there is very bleak. We’ve seen a low simmering uprising, where basically very young people took to the streets to attack Israelis or to attack soldier Israeli soldiers, most often than not, losing their lives in the process.
We’re talking about children here: Palestinians who are 12 or 13 years old. They’ve spent their short lives watching their families live through the indignities of occupation and seem to have given up on any hope for a future. And if there’s no hope for this two state solution then I think what we’ll see developing in Israel is a far more right-facing government than even now and even more despondent Palestinian communities.
This could perhaps result in a another major uprising, like we saw in the second intifada between 2000-2005 where we saw regular suicide bombings and attacks. I think that would be terrible for everyone involved.